Magic have ‘Skip’ in step in first finals victory

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Orlando Magic skipped past their point guard controversy in style Tuesday night.Rafer Alston helped the Magic get back into the NBA finals, scoring 20 points to lead them to a 108-104 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3.Alston made eight of 12 shots for the Magic, who shot a finals-record 75 percent in the first half and a crisp 62.5 for the game. It was Orlando’s best offensive performance of the series, and by far the most efficient for its struggling backcourt.”I just wanted to come in and be aggressive tonight and set the tone,” Alston said.Alston put an end to any friction over All-Star Jameer Nelson’s return trimming his playing time – if only briefly – the only way he knows how.The former streetballer on New York’s blacktops showcased some of his moves from the days when he was known as “Skip to my Lou.” Crissing and crossing with his razzle-dazzle moves, he was blowing by every Lakers defender, including Kobe Bryant.Behind-the-back dribbles. Floating jumpers. A no-look pass. Alston was right back in his element.For the first time all series, he made the Lakers pay for slipping screens and double-teaming center Dwight Howard. He added four assists and two rebounds in 37 minutes of play.”He’s tough,” Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu said. “When he gets it going, we’re almost unstoppable.”That’s the way it’s been all season.Alston boosted the Magic’s championship hopes when he was acquired from the Houston Rockets at the trade deadline. He had 26 points in Game 4 of the conference finals against Cleveland to help the Magic take a 3-1 series lead.But helping Orlando avoid an 0-3 hole – and get its first finals win after losing its first six games – might be his biggest comeback performance yet.He also may have ended the debate about who should start at point guard for the Magic.When Nelson returned for the finals after being out since early February recovering from what was then-called season-ending shoulder surgery, he cut into his replacement’s minutes enough that Alston publicly voiced his displeasure after Game 1. Alston had just 10 points in the first two games of the series combined on 3-for-17 shooting.A win pushed those struggles aside.”Just find a rhythm and stay in it,” Alston said. “That was the key. I never once was furious or upset. … Tonight I was able to find a rhythm, and keep it going when I came back in.”He and Nelson shot so poorly in Game 2 that coach Stan Van Gundy benched them for most of the fourth quarter and had 6-foot-10 forward Turkoglu run the point. The Magic coach has been desperate for some relief, resorting to a pep talk for Alston that even he admitted was far-fetched.”I’m a motivational genius, that’s what I am,” Van Gundy joked. “I thought for two days about what to say to him, and I said, ‘Play your game.’ You can write that down. That’s a quote. It took me two days to come up with that.”

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